Food as Medicine: ?Tomatoes & Prostate Cancer Prevention

The prostate is a doughnut-shaped gland, about the size of a walnut, that lies below the bladder and surrounds the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the tip of the penis).

Symptoms of prostate disease can include:

– A need to urinate frequently, especially at night

– Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine

– Inability to urinate

– Weak or interrupted flow of urine

– Painful or burning urination

– Difficulty in having an erection

– Painful ejaculation

– Blood in urine or semen

– Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs

The humble tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is an excellent source of potassium, folate, as well as vitamins A, C and E. One plant chemical that tomatoes are particularly rich in is carotenoids; red fat-soluble pigments that give tomatoes their bright red colour. Lycopene is one of these carotenoids, and is an excellent antioxidant, effective at quenching free radicals and oxidative stress in the body.

Studies show that lycopene may be able to prevent the growth of cancer cells, including prostate cancer. Research has found a promising relationship between lycopene intake and prostate cancer risk. Frequent consumption of tomato products may therefore be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.

What does all of this mean for the men in your life?

? Include red and ripe tomatoes, and tomato products like tomato paste and pizza sauce, in your shopping trolley each week.

? Lycopene is a fat-soluble compound and is best absorbed from cooked tomato products. Try and eat your tomatoes cooked with olive oil or with foods like avocado to increase your body’s ability to absorb the lycopene.

? To reduce prostate cancer risk, the recommended dose of dietary lycopene is 10-15mg/day. This means men should aim for four or more serves of tomatoes per week (e.g. home-made bolognaise, tomato-based curries, cooked tomatoes with eggs, and home-made pizza).

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